by Francisco Stork on July 4, 2010

I’ve been thinking about what it means for a young adult novel to have integrity. I approach the subject from the point of view of the author. How can I write a novel for young people with integrity and why is it important that I do so? I don’t know why it is so hard to write about integrity. It is almost as if integrity and silence go together. The minute you start speaking about integrity you are in danger of losing it. But maybe the risk is worth taking.

The reason why it is so difficult to write about integrity is because integrity has a lot to do with intent and motive. Why am I writing this? The young adult novel will have integrity if it is written in response to an inner calling, a spiritual necessity. When the impulse to create is pure, when what it seeks is the expression of beauty and goodness, the result is a work that has integrity.

So integrity is something that happens in the mind and heart of the author. But the motive of the author cannot help but manifest itself in the work. There it waits to be recognized by the reader. Integrity is an invisible presence recognized by an invisible awareness. Integrity gives rise to trust between writer and reader. “Yes, I give you my heart. I now know you have my wellbeing in mind,” says the reader wordlessly when integrity is apprehended.

To write with integrity is difficult. To do so the writer must invoke a sort of amnesia for all those external considerations that detract from the work itself. How hard these days to forget about sales and awards and praise or its opposite. But I don’t think integrity means that the writer must forget about the reader – the person for whom she is writing. Rather, to write with integrity means to respect the intelligence, the feelings, the autonomy of the reader. It means that I as an author will remain true to an artistic vision that I intend to share. That the artistic vision is to be shared imposes certain limits to the creation. And it is here in the imposition of limits that I as an author will respect my reader. It is here that I will keep her wellbeing in mind. This dance, this tension, between responsibility to the work and responsibility to the reader is where integrity may be found, where it lives like a spark of life.

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